Monday, July 17, 2017

Happiness while in Pain

Its July here in Oklahoma which means humidity and more humidity, and evenings filled with the mass chirping of cicadas and blinking white dots of fire flies giving charm to the night sky.

And so I Joseph Ostermeir, yours truely the Okie Traditionalist, once again sit here in my Okie armchair ruminating and reflecting on this here Valley of Tears.

In a recent past post I listed a summer To-Do Bucket List dependent upon my health recovery, yet the all wise and good Divine Physician has extended my penitential period of rehabilitation.  Weekly physical therapy sessions, daily exercises and a health regimen, occupy my front lobe.  Its one day at a time until we resume our weekend country roadtrips and dip into the cool waters of eastern Oklahoma's finest swimming holes.

And so I turn to the subject of this latest installment of The Okie Traditionalist--happiness while in pain.  Until now I never knew, I really had just an inkling of understanding on the level of the abstract and academic, that it IS metaphysically possible to experience a state of peace and spiritual happiness while enduring constant pain.

Something surreal happens and you're just going to have to take my word for it, like people had to believe Jodie Foster's character in the movie Contact when she returns to Earth from her alien visit.  Imagine being at the bottom of a vertical tunnel of fire burning alive, but making the raw decision to accept it and pray.  Part of your soul ascends out of the pit into the blue sky and gentle breeze.  Mind you, your lower nature is still down there in the fire, but the fire itself propelled your higher nature to ascend and calmly settle at the level of the intellect and will.  

Its a paradoxical experience I'm sure some of you have had the misfortune fortune to have.  This wasn't me; it was Grace and I've tasted it just a few times now.  Folks, this is me bearing witness that divine spiritual sweetness and delights await us.

At any rate, if God lets me choose, I choose recovery and normality asap, to get back my duties of state.  But this thing has changed me.  As I talked about in an earlier post about three choices we can make when confronted by serious calamity, the only choice is to "grab that bull by the horns." Pray for me I dont let go.

Wishing you all a cool summer.  Will post again soon.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thoughts on Life and Purgatory

I was pondering this today trying to finish my book on purgatory while recovering from some recent serious illness.  Purgatory and life here on Earth have metaphysical differences but seem to me to essentially to be the same thing.  In a way this life is purgatory. A constant state of suffering of some kind in reparation for our sins.  Check.  A temporary place.  Check.  In reality nothing compared to heaven.  Check. Where comfort is always secondary to suffering.  Check.  Where suffering prevails over reliefs and comfort. Check.  Yup, they sound to have enough of the same characteristics in common to place them in the same category of "Valley of Tears."

Its nice to think of having a full, happy life here in the natural sense, without much suffering, and to avoid purgatory completely just by being ordinary Catholics saying our prayers and earning indulgences.  I've always thought that way more or less, truth be told.  Deep down I still do. I'm still choosing the easier road to heaven hoping indulgences will make up the difference. 

But from what Ive been reading about purgatory, if we really understood the hard data about the place, we would gladly suffer terrible crosses here.  And apply our indulgences to the Poor Souls themselves out of charity because to be holy--ironically therefore to avoid purgatory--we should want to first relieve the suffering of others before ourselves.

If you want to avoid purgatory by gaining indulgences youd probably need a plenary indulgence right before a holy death considering even the best of us commit venial sins every day.  But we have to be detached from venial sin to gain the full indulgence.  Even if that does not have to be an extraordinary, mystical kind of detachment, it seems to me to be assured you will have it before you die, its important to already have that as a habit.  And to have it as a habit, not to mention to have a basic "holy and happy death," it is very important to live a penitential life beyond that of being an ordinary, devout Catholic.

Consider St. Padre Pio, our own contemporary saint and mystic. From the different Lives of the Saints I've read over the years, arguably he is one of the most holy saints who suffered the most.  The full stigmata, chronic GI pain/vomitting/migraines all his life, persecutions from religious superiors and members of the hierarchy, nightly attacks of body and mind by demons, crippling diffuse arthritis later in life, etc, etc.  None of which he sought out, but simply accepted because he had no other choice.  Yet he waited until just the last moments before his death for his final confession!  He must have known he had at least one venial sin to confess that could merit him some serious purgatory time.  He could read souls after all--why not his own?

Maybe Im taking this too seriously?? But if you study purgatory--shouldn't we all spend some time studying it ?--it is to a certain degree frightening...but ultimately consoling.  You realize that as strange as it may sound to earthly ears, all the countless revelations of the Saints about how long and terrible purgatory is for most who are saved, are really a gift from Gods mercy.  He has revealed them to Catholics--or rather to Catholics today fortunate enough to have stumbled across these private revelations--to actually help us suffer LESS.  And to help many of us practicing Catholics avoid damnation from just one mortal sin, who are just lax enough to think "I'll be fine if at least I make it to purgatory."  

In the most raw pragmatic sense of a believing Catholic human being who naturally wants less pain as long as they exist, it only makes sense to seek out more suffering and penance on this side of the grave.

I hope I'm not sounding or being scrupulous.  But its never resonated with me as much as it is right now deep down that this life IS essentially purgatory and that it is wiser to be more penitential now.  Not that most of us should be Religious or practice severe penances all day long.  But that we should embrace this life for what it really is--a kind of purgatory.  

Thoughts?  Objections? Counter-points?